The World Bank has just published the World Development Report (WDR) 2019 ‘The Changing Nature of Work’, studying how the nature of work is changing as a result of advances in technology today; assessing the impacts of technological progress; and offering solutions for Governments to harness these changes.

Main messages

Fears that robots will take away jobs from people have dominated the discussion over the future of work, but the World Development Report 2019 finds that on balance this appears to be unfounded. Instead, technology is bringing opportunity, paving the way to create new jobs, increase productivity, and improve public service delivery.

The nature of work is changing:

  • Firms can grow rapidly thanks to digital transformation, which blurs their boundaries and challenges traditional production patterns.
  • The rise of the digital platform firm means that technological effects reach more people faster than ever before.
  • Technology is changing the skills that employers seek. Workers need to be good at complex problem-solving, teamwork and adaptability.
  • Technology is changing how people work and the terms on which they work. Even in advanced economies, short-term work, often found through online platforms, is posing similar challenges to those faced by the world’s informal workers.

What can governments do?

  • Invest in human capital especially in disadvantaged groups and early childhood education to develop the new skills that are increasingly in demand in the labor market, such as high-order cognitive and socio-behavioral skills.
  • Enhance social protection to ensure universal coverage and protection that does not fully depend on having formal wage employment.
  • Increase revenue mobilisation by upgrading taxation systems, where needed, to provide fiscal space to finance human capital development and social protection.


  • The report highlights that Australia is among the countries estimated to be most hurt by profit shifting by multinational companies, along with Brazil, France, India, Japan, Mexico, the United States and much of Africa.
  • The country ranks 7th in the Human Capital Index for 2018, with a score of 0.8, where 1 represents an economy in which the average worker achieves both full health and full education potential.

(Source: WDR 2019 | Main messages | Read the report)

Further reading:

Should We Tax Robots?, by Roberta Mann

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